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ASU voice professor releases first solo and duo recording

October 18, 2019

Stephanie Weiss, assistant professor of voice in the ASU School of Music, recently released her first solo and duo recording, “Sacred & Profane: Duo Au Courant Performs Song Cycles of Daron Hagen” with “duo au courant” partner, pianist Christina Wright-Ivanova.

“We enjoyed working together and began to find our niche in new works with living composers, so we decided to become an official duo,” said Weiss. “We selected the name ‘duo au courant’ because of our commitment to singing current music and about current topics.” Stephanie Weiss Stephanie Weiss Download Full Image

Weiss and Wright-Ivanova first met in 2011 at the American Institute for Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, when they performed Daniel Brewbaker’s "I Carry Your Heart" for its European premiere. They worked together again a few years later when they were both on faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and asked by composer Virko Baley to sing some songs by Daron Hagen, an award-winning composer, librettist, stage director, conductor, collaborative pianist and essayist. Hagen’s music is performed worldwide by the most prestigious orchestras, ensembles and soloists, and he is the recipient of the 2015 American Academy of Arts and Letters' Academy Award for "the artist who has achieved his singular voice."

“We were struck by the originality and beauty of Hagen’s writing, and he enjoyed our sound and artistry,” said Weiss. “He asked us to sing his other cycles, including premiering a song cycle he wrote in 1989, ‘A Handful of Days’. This led us to our all-Hagen recording, which was also produced by Hagen on Albany Records.”

Duo au courant’s recording features three of Hagen’s song cycles performed by Weiss and Wright-Ivanova — “Vegetable Verselets,” “Jaik's Songs” and “A Handful of Days.”

Weiss, a mezzo-soprano, is a regular guest at Deutsche Oper Berlin and has performed at numerous European opera houses such as Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Oper Köln, Oper Leipzig, Oper Frankfurt, Stadttheater Bern, Oper Dortmund, Oper Köln, and the San Diego Opera. She has performed in concert with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Opera Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall, the Lviv Philharmonic (Ukraine) and with the Singakademie Potsdam. Weiss has also served on the faculty of the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy in Sulmona, Italy, and has been on the voice faculty at AIMS in Graz since 2010.

Wright-Ivanova, a faculty member at Keene State College in New Hampshire, has performed throughout the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, China and South America.

Duo au courant will present the Arizona premiere of “Jiak’s Songs,” which they also presented as a world premiere at UNLV in 2017. The duo will also perform Dominick Argento's “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf,” staged by Stephanie Sadownik, School of Music doctoral student.

Oct. 20
Duo au courant
7:30 p.m.
Katzin Concert Hall

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


ASU event management students learn from organizers at the Arizona State Fair

October 18, 2019

As temperatures start to cool off, the bright lights of the Ferris wheel illuminate the Phoenix sky and customers line up to taste the year’s hottest culinary trend (the hot Cheetos pickle), it can only mean one thing: It’s time for the Arizona State Fair.

Students in the Special Event Management program at Arizona State University look forward to this annual tradition, where they are treated to a behind-the-scenes tour and discover how multiple event components come together to successfully execute this 23-day event. People walk the midway at the Arizona State Fair ASU students in the Special Event Management program tour the midway at the Arizona State Fair on Thursday. They spent time discussing concessions, merchandising, crowd control and more. Photo by Michelle Oldfield Download Full Image

On Thursday, 75 aspiring event management professionals turned the fairground into their classroom and learned about box office operations, concessions, exhibitors, sponsorship, entertainment, marketing, media, safety and security — all elements that they discuss throughout the semester and have the opportunity to witness firsthand during this site visit.

The tour was led by Evelyn Bader, a recent alum who now serves as an event specialist for the Arizona Exposition and State Fair.

“It’s great for students to witness the inner workings because the fair is the largest consecutive event happening in Arizona,” Bader said. “It truly takes a village, and I think it is important for students to see all of the hard work that goes into it.”

In fact, festival organizers told the group that 1,000 people work the fair each year including parking attendants, entertainment runners, security guards and box office attendants.

“I was impressed by the amount of different people and how they work together,” PRM 427 (Revenue Generation for Special Event Management) student A.J. Brems commented.

Students were led to the VIP areas, through the midway, backstage of the Trace Adkins concert, into the green room and into the exhibition barn. Along the way, students interacted with several of the fair organizers while learning about their backgrounds, roles and why they enjoy their jobs.

“Touring all aspects of the fair and meeting a representative from each area was really helpful in understanding how the event comes together,” said Hiclay Holguin, a student in PRM 486 (Introduction to Special Event Management).

At the conclusion of the site visit, students were asked to complete an assignment based on their observations and were able to enjoy the fair for the remainder of the evening.

The Special Event Management program, part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, offers students with an interest in working in the special event industry an opportunity to learn fundamental principals of producing a wide range of events including concerts, festivals, weddings, conventions, sporting events and more. Students can pursue a minor that ties their degree into event management or the six-credit certificate to add to their degree, which will put them at a competitive advantage entering the workforce.

“Our courses are experiential — yes, we spend time discussing fundamentals inside the classroom, but we pride ourselves on the hands-on experiences our students are developing outside of the classroom,” clinical assistant professor Erin Schneiderman explains. “Students will take several visits throughout the community, hear from experts and have several opportunities to develop their own events and volunteer in areas that interest them. Our ultimate goal is to place students in the event industry who have experience and can make an immediate impact!”

Find more information on this program online.

Clinical Assistant Professor, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU School of Music to host the 2019 American Liszt Society Festival

October 18, 2019

The ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts will host the 2019 American Liszt Society Festival on Oct. 24–27 to honor the music and legacy of Franz Liszt, considered one of the most influential and central musical figures of 19th century Europe.

This year’s theme is “War of the Romantics: Liszt and his Rivals.” The festival will feature more than 50 performers and presenters in a variety of performances and lectures focused on works by Liszt and his contemporaries, both allies and rivals. Piano in Katzin Concert Hall Many of the American Liszt Society Festival events will take place in the Katzin Concert Hall on the Tempe campus. Download Full Image

“The wide range of music, featuring works by Brahms, Chopin, Clara and Robert Schumann and of course Liszt, make it a one-of-a-kind festival,” said Baruch Meir, associate professor in the ASU School of Music and festival director. “The festival program offers a dynamic array of recitals, lectures and master classes offered by distinguished artists and scholars hailing from across the United States as well as students and faculty from Arizona State University.”

Internationally renowned pianist Oxana Yablonskaya and Sung Chang, the first-prize winner of the 2015 Bösendorfer USASU International Piano Competition, are the featured guest artists for the festival.

Franz Liszt was a Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, writer, theologian and philanthropist during the Romantic era. With more than 1,400 works for orchestras, ensembles and keyboard to his credit, his piano compositions — from his Hungarian Rhapsodies to his Mephisto Waltzes — are among the most technically challenging in piano repertoire even today.

The American Liszt Society is dedicated to the scholarship and full creative and historical significance of Liszt on the education and development of both the composition and performance of music throughout the Western world, and each year it presents a festival made up of member artists and distinguished guest artists to celebrate Liszt, his influence and his ideals.

“The theme of this year’s festival reminds us of the power that music has to build connections across continents and cultures,” said Heather Landes, professor and director of the School of Music in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “We hope that everyone in attendance leaves inspired, refreshed and energized with new knowledge and new colleagues.”

More information about the festival and ticketed events is available at the 2019 American Liszt Society Festival event site. General festival events require registration online with several options available to attend festival events. Tickets for the two featured guest artists’ recitals may be purchased separately at the Herberger Institute box office.

Guest artist performances

Opening Gala Piano Recital
Sun Chang, pianist
Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m.
Katzin Concert Hall

Guest Artist Recital
Oxana Yablonskaya, pianist
Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.
Katzin Concert Hall

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


ASU’s 2019-20 Organ Series launches Oct. 20

October 18, 2019

The School of Music’s 2019-20 Organ Series celebrates the pipe organ — an instrument with a repertoire than spans more than 500 years. Performances this year feature a wide range of music, from 14th century Europe to contemporary America.

“The 2019-20 organ series is all about connections — connections between art and power, between different musical traditions and between ASU organists and the local community,” said Kimberly Marshall, Goldman Professor of Organ in the School of Music in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Fritz pipe organ Fritz Organ in Organ Hall Download Full Image

This year’s series features ASU doctoral alumni Guy Whatley and Kristin Holton-Prouty, both leaders in the greater-Phoenix musical community. Marshall’s concert explores influences from southern Europe on the organ music of the north. Marshall’s organ studio students present a holiday celebration in their organ Christmas concerts and recreate the late-medieval and Renaissance origins of organ music in a program entitled “Gargoyles and Galliards.”  The series finale features a concert of organ variation sets by Dexter Kennedy, winner of the Grand Prix d’Interprétation at the 24th Concours International d’Orgue de Chartres, in a program that is co-sponsored by the Central Arizona chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

“The pipe organ has an unmatched power and versatility in the musical world,” Marshall said. "This year’s series exposes the beauty and intensity of this extraordinary instrument.”

All organ concerts are performed in ASU’s Organ Hall in the School of Music. Tickets for all events may be purchased at the Herberger Institute Box Office or by calling 480-965-6447.

2019-20 Organ Series

Graces in Play: Guy Whatley
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2:30 p.m.

Playing both organ and harpsichord, ASU alumnus Guy Whatley brings to life the unique keyboard music of the British Isles during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Transalpine Adventures: Kimberly Marshall
Sunday, Nov. 10, 2:30 p.m.


Goldman Professor of Organ Kimberly Marshall presents a program of early organ music showing links between northern and southern keyboard cultures.

O Holy Night: An Organ Concert for Christmas
Saturday, Dec. 14, 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 15, 2:30 and 5 p.m.


Mezzo soprano Sarah Welden joins Kimberly Marshall and the ASU Organ Studio in this musical celebration of Christmas.

Songs of Home: Kristin Holton-Prouty 
Sunday, Jan. 26, 2:30 p.m.


ASU alumna Kristin Holton-Prouty presents organ works based on old and new melodies, playing the Fritts (1992) and Traeri (1742) instruments.

Gargoyles and Galliards
Sunday, Feb. 9, 2:30 p.m.


Kimberly Marshall and the ASU Organ Studio recreate the late-medieval and Renaissance origins of the King of instruments.

Variety of the Variation: Dexter Kennedy
Sunday, March 1, 2:30 p.m.


Prizewinner Dexter Kennedy performs variation sets from the vast organ repertoire, including one of the most elaborate partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


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Diversity in fandom: How the narrative is changing

October 18, 2019

ASU film and media studies instructor Michelle Martinez talks about the current landscape of minorities in pop culture

African American actress Regina King is the star in an HBO adaptation of D.C.’s “The Watchmen,” premiering Oct. 20; Marvel’s Pakistani American superhero Kamala Khan is getting a standalone series on Disney Plus; “Captain Marvel” became the first female-led superhero film to pass the billion-dollar mark this year.

All three milestones represent a growing Hollywood trend of including more women and minorities in superhero and comic book media. Many fans see steps such as these as both positive and overdue, considering the amount of diversity in fandom. Yet stereotypes around what a “geek,” “nerd” or “fan” looks like still persist — perhaps due to popular shows such as “The Big Bang TheoryAn American television sitcom that stars white male physicists who share geeky and socially awkward tendencies.” or vocal minorities that protest these changes.

ASU Now talked to Arizona State University film and media studies instructor Michelle Martinez about the pervasiveness of these stereotypes and how we can shift the narrative.

Editor's note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: When the general public thinks of a nerd or geek, usually the stereotype of a white, socially awkward teen male comes to mind. Where did this stereotype originate?

Answer: We have a history in the media of the overrepresentation of whiteness and the underrepresentation of non-whiteness. Since the earliest origins of film and television, black, Latinx, indigenous and Asian Americans have been stereotyped, with an absence of nuance. In those limited representations, the nerd was not among the earlier character tropes.

Mary Bucholtz has written about this extensively. In a paper she published in 2001 called “The Whiteness of Nerds: Superstandard English and Racial Markedness,” Bucholtz argues that white nerds are “hyperwhite” because they do not engage in cultural markersMartinez says that cultural markers are signs and word/phrase uses that signify the knowledge of hip-hop music or other aspects of what is seen as cool, which usually is something deriving from black culture. that originate in non-white spaces, particularly language markers. So the stereotype started in high schools and campuses with white kids who either self-identified or were labeled as nerd by cool kids because they possessed a mastery of the English language and rejected performances of the indicators of what is marked as cool.

Q: If you go to any comic or pop culture convention around the country, you’ll find a diverse group of attendees, in both race and gender. So why is the white male nerd stereotype so prevalent in society still? 

Answer: Comicons, gaming conventions and superhero, fantasy and sci-fi film franchise opening nights will certainly draw out nerds of every race, gender and ethnicity. You will also find this diversity in many online spaces containing these interests. My thoughts on why this nerd stereotype still prevails is because there are many real-life examples of white nerds who are highly successful and in the public eye.

It took until the release of the film “Hidden Figures” in 2016 for Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan to be publicly recognized for their superior intellect. So, while this is changing in comic and pop culture venues, we still have a way to go in other spaces.

Q: There are critics who consider the inclusion of POC (people of color) or female superheroes or characters to be tokenism or pandering. Why is this? 

A: Traditionally, the primary comic characters in mainstream media have been white men, and when there is diversity, it feels manufactured.

“Manufactured diversity” is the term I use for media products that have a superficial use of inclusion. Diversity is manufactured if the characters have no nuance or specificity, no relationship to their home communities, are written as caricatures or stereotypes and are portrayed as in need of or dependent on the white main character.

Q: What are some examples of content that are representing diversity well?

A: In the comic books, Marvel’s “X-Men" has had many queer and characters of color. Marvel also gave us Miles MoralesIn the animated feature "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.", an Afro-Latino Spider-Man, and it ended up winning an Oscar for best animated feature. Marvel’s run on Netflix, which produced "Luke Cage," made progress by centering the action in Harlem with nuanced characters that acknowledged the array of black cultures and diaspora.

Looking at DC Comics, they have plans for full-length features for the Cyborg character and have sequels in the works for Aquaman. So as far as male superheroes of color, we’ve got a healthy start. The CW has rebranded themselves as the place to go for DC comic TV. “Riverdale,” “Supergirl,” “Batgirl,” “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow” have women and LGBTQ characters given more visibility. “Black Lightning” is about a family of black superheroes living in an African American community, and the white characters are the supporting characters. CW also produced an animated run of the superhero Vixen, an African American woman. 

HBO has produced a version of DC’s “Watchmen” starring Regina King as Sister Night, so that gives fans another strong female character of color and the potential to translate into cosplay, costumes and merch. King’s Sister Night also lets the world see a black woman as a fully formed superhero who kicks major (expletive), and that kind of representation has been needed for a very long time.

Q: It also seems that some of the more popular “nerd” content has been created by white men. Is that shifting? What are ways to encourage more people of color or women to be content creators?

A: This is absolutely shifting, slowly, but shifting. Since the various movements like #metoo, #oscarsowhite and #blacklivesmatter, call-out culture and the shifting of power happening in Hollywood, the gatekeepers are either being replaced or eliminated. Also, many content creators who major in film anymore have studied representation in film and are more dedicated to inclusion. Many studios have created internships and fellowship programs to boost diversity.

I think the biggest impact are all of the tutorials on YouTube of how to draw, how to make comics and how to animate. This gets young kids and people of all ages started on making their own (content). Comic culture and fandom has always been linked to DIY and making. From cosplay to zines and comics themselves, this is a fan-run and fan-centered industry, so it is just a matter of time before more truly inclusive content emerges. 

Q: What do you think it will take to ultimately change the narrative surrounding nerd or geek culture to be more inclusive? 

A: There are several online communities and cons/expos dedicated to more inclusive nerd culture. Here are a few of the ones I know of:

And there are an increasing number of panels at some of the major fan/comic fests that are dedicating space and conversations to this issue. 

If you are interested in checking out some media created by women or people of color, here are some personally recommended by Martinez that you can access at the ASU Library:

Top image: Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani American superhero. Image courtesy of Marvel Studios

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ASU theater students tap into fantasy for 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' costumes

Student costume designers tap into fantasy for 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'
October 15, 2019

Halloween do-it-yourselfers can get tips from the pros

The “Kiss of the Spider Woman” is a play about politics and fantasy, and the Arizona State University student production that will debut on Friday allowed for a lot of creativity in the costuming.

The female dancers in the show are imaginary — conjured in the minds of the two male characters who are in prison.

The show, a production of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, will feature costumes designed by Paige Lockwood, a senior majoring in theater design and production, and created by Niamh Murphy, the draper for the show who also is a senior majoring in theater design and production.

The students started working with the director, Guillermo Reyes, professor of theater, back in the spring semester to create the otherworldly vision of the costumes, according to Sarah Moench, clinical assistant professor of costume technology.

“This show, with the theatricality of the dancers’ costumes in particular, is a great way to illustrate how we go about making costumes and to showcase what our students are doing,” she said.

“We get a lot of interest in this around Halloween.”

Here are some ways to come up with a costume like the pros:

colored pencil sketch of costumes for 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'

Costume sketches were created by Paige Lockwood, the costume designer, who is a senior majoring in theater production and design with a minor in studio art. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Start early

“Some people start planning their Halloween costume the day after Halloween for the next year,” Moench said. “For us, the theater production schedule starts 23 weeks out from the opening.”

For “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” students were cast in the roles and Lockwood’s costume research and preliminary sketches were done by the end of the spring semester. Her final designs were due shortly after fall semester started.

“About 13 weeks out is when I come to the first meeting and talk about the production side,” Moench said.

back of a woman wearing spider-themed costume

The silk shawl worn by Ausette Anderies in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" was hand painted with silk dye for a "spidery" effect. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Do your research

Lockwood started the costume design process by collaborating with the director and then researching the era.

The play is set in a prison in 1970s Argentina, a politically turbulent time. The 1985 movie starred William Hurt, Raul Julia and Sonia Braga, although Lockwood did not see it.

“I try not to watch movie interpretations because I don’t want to be influenced by other designers’ choices,” she said.

In the play, the character Molina passes the time in prison by discussing a movie from the 1940s, so Lockwood took inspiration from that for the “femme fatale” character’s costume.

“I looked at images of 1940s noir films and those powerful female characters with the long silky black dresses that are slender and have movement and are sensual,” she said.

“I wanted to get that sleek look and I also got inspiration from Argentinian tango because that started in Buenos Aires in the 1940s. That’s why I have the slit up her leg.”

Lockwood emphasized the “femme fatale’s” arms with black lace to get that sensuality and darkness of the character.

She also created the “spider woman” character’s costume.

“For that, I had a lot of creative freedom because there isn’t really a time period or exact look, because she’s in his imagination and it’s surrealism.

“So I looked at surrealistic artwork from that time, I found paintings of women who looked dangerous and mysterious and I was inspired by that.”

women kneeling to tailor dress worn by other woman

Niamh Murphy, costumer draper for "Kiss of the Spider Woman," makes an adjustment on the "femme fatale" costume worn by junior Ausette Anderies at the Nelson Fine Arts Center costume shop. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Consider professional touches

Murphy created the “femme fatale” costume out of silk charmeuse, which stretches, so it’s comfortable for the dancer.

But the fabric is expensive. So first, the drapers make the costume out of inexpensive fabric to perfect the fit and tweak the design. For example, the “femme fatale” costume was modified to have princess seaming in the bodice, which works better for a dancer.

“We did the mockup so that’s always comforting, and so you know how much fabric it will take and any roadblocks you might face,” said Murphy, who learned to sew in high school and refined her skills at ASU.

For the shawl that goes with the “Spider Woman” costume, Moench and Lockwood created the spidery effect by hand-painting the white silk with silk dye. Then, they sewed dress weights to the corners to enhance the graceful motion as the actor walked with the shawl flowing behind her. Do-it-yourselfers can add coins to a hem or edge to create the same finished effect.

woman trying on a costumer

Costume designer Paige Lockwood, left, watches as Ausette Anderies tries on the "femme fatale" costume for the "Kiss of the Spider Woman" production. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 Don’t forget “extras”

“People making their Halloween costume have a budget and we have one too,” Moench said.

The students had $750 to spend on all the costumes, including shoes, plus hair and makeup. Some of the items, such as the black lace for the “femme fatale” costume, were in the costume stock. The silk was expensive but actually cost less to buy in bulk, so there’s plenty left over for another costume in the future.

Moench’s tip for Halloween costumers:

“We always set aside 10% of that budget as a contingency, so if we find out we need another pair of shoes or we need to add a hat or some jewelry, there’s a little bit of money set aside,” she said.

“So figure out what kinds of pieces you need, set your budget and set 10% aside because inevitably, you’ll want something else at the end and you’ll end up at the store trying to find black fishnets and you’ll have to spend a bunch more because everybody has bought them all.”

Top image: Production crew members begin attaching the silk web to the "Spider Woman" costume, worn by actor/dancer Ausette Anderies, for the "Kiss of the Spider Woman" production at the Nelson Fine Arts Center costume shop. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Art and science combine for global engagement at ASU

October 10, 2019

School of Arts, Media and Engineering hosting international conference for movement and computing

Movers and makers are innovating art and science at the sixth annual MOCO International Conference on Movement and Computing at Arizona State University on Oct. 10-12.

Artists, engineers and humanists from more than 20 countries are exploring what it means to merge mind, movement and machines in ways that may someday help resolve some of life’s biggest challenges.

MOCO comes to ASU through the planning and efforts of conference chair Grisha Coleman, an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU.

, Arts Media + Engineering

Grisha Coleman

“I pitched for the conference to be held here at ASU because of ASU’s transdisciplinary emphasis and the work that we have built up in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, specifically,” said Coleman. “What better way to engage our students than to share this creative learning space with them?”

Inspired by the theme “Movement Imaginaries,” Coleman says faculty and students from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, the School of Art and the School of Music will be among those presenting their work at the international conference.

“I chose this theme to allow the practitioners and scholars to play in the sand together,” Coleman said. “As the range of topics can go from sensory acuity and sonic feedback to adipose tissue and machine learning algorithms, we learn that there is nothing that humans don’t touch through physicality, through our imaginaries.”

With a focus on the use of computational technology to understand human movement, this year’s MOCO conference invited submissions from a wide range of disciplines – robotics, dance, psychology, artificial intelligence, philosophy, anthropology, music, health care, sports science, games and animation among them.

Coleman herself is a product of transdisciplinary learning and instruction. A dancer, composer and digital media artist, Coleman says her immersion into the movement and computing world was inspired by questions asked with other researchers about “how do dancers think?” She shares these experiences in somatics and movement to help students think about the technologies they create.

Coleman is also at the helm of the echo::system project, a five-part enterprise that assembles dance, sound, visual media and computational platforms to highlight the effect that humans are having on the environment.

Having graced venues in Italy, the United Kingdom, Greece, Canada and France in previous years, the 2019 MOCO conference is making its United States debut at ASU in its sixth year. Coleman says having the conference in the U.S. has allowed far more access to U.S. colleagues operating in the arts and digital culture space. 

The 2019 MOCO International Conference on Movement and Computing Conference is being held over three days, Oct. 10–12 at Stauffer Communication Arts B building on ASU’s Tempe Campus. Installations and performances are open to the public at no charge over the weekend. Learn more about the event at the MOCO conference website.

ASU actors, scientists team up to increase climate change awareness

October 9, 2019

Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is teaming up with Biodesign Institute on Thursday, Nov. 14, in the Biodesign Institute auditorium to participate in an international movement, Climate Change Theatre Action. Actors from Herberger’s acting concentration for stage and screen program in the School of Film, Dance, and Theatre will offer three staged readings. Paired with the actors, graduate student scientists and researchers from Biodesign Institute will demonstrate how their research intersects with each play’s theme. 

A global participatory project, Climate Change Theatre Action uses theater to bring communities together and encourage them to take local and global action on climate. Fifty professional playwrights, representing all continents as well as several indigenous nations, are commissioned to write five-minute plays, including one performance inspired by young climate activist Greta Thunberg, about various aspects of climate change.  From left to right: Corey Reynolds/Jillian Walker, students at Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, worked with Biodesign researcher Athena Aktipis in a 2018 Climate Change Theater performance. Download Full Image

Produced and envisioned by Herberger Associate Professor Micha Espinosa, this is the third time ASU has participated in Climate Change Theatre Action. This year, her co-producer is embedded artist intern and acting concentration student Ausette Anderies. ASU is part of the action in promoting this awareness through the power of storytelling and the demonstration of science. 

The performance begins at noon on Nov. 14 in the Biodesign Institute Auditorium, and is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Micha Espinosa. 

Plays and performers include:

'It Starts With Me' by Chantal Bilodeau

This play is inspired by Greta Thunberg, Katharine Hayhoe, Wangari Maathai, Alexandria Villaseñor, Naomi Klein, Rebecca Solnit, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Christiana Figueres and countless more women who are fighting for us all

Directed by: Zuriel Lloyd and Micha Espinosa

Featuring: Makayla Higgs, Giselle Torres, Hailey Royster, Lana Antropova, Alaina Lass 

Charles Rolsky, a graduate student researcher at the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering, connected his research to a play called “Single Use,” during which a couple on a first date grapples with their personal opinions on single use plastics. Rolsky’s research has a keen focus on microplastics, their remediation and the threats they pose to people and our planet.

'The Failed Experiment' by Jatoba Vitor

The inspiration for this play came from the playwright’s feelings about humans’ ability to deceive themselves. We can see but we prefer to ignore. We can act but we prefer not to. We are aliens on our own planet.

Directed by: Michael Scholar

Featuring: Victor Yang and Sadie Schuelfer 

Corey Reynolds (left) and Jillian Walker, students at Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, worked with Biodesign researcher Athena Aktipis in a 2018 Climate Change Theatre Action performance.

'Hashtag You Too' by Mike van Graan

The play genuflects to the book, “Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice,” written by Cormac Cullinan. The purpose of the play is to catalyze discussion and debate around the rights of the Earth and its constituent parts in modern, contemporary society.

Directed by: Ausette Andries

Featuring: Rashaud Williams and Dolores Mendoza 

Participating graduate student researchers, under the direction of Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering include:

Nivedita Rengarajan has a background in environmental engineering in the United Kingdom and has a master’s degree in sustainability from ASU. Her interests lie in applying circular economy principles for sustainable solid waste management. She is fluent in English, German and two Indian languages. Rengarajan has worked for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in Vienna, for Indian NGOs on slum sanitation and for the government of Singapore.  

Ashley Heida is a graduate student in the biological design program at Arizona State University. She grew up in Minnesota and completed her undergraduate degree in physics at the University of North Dakota. She has conducted research in theoretical and experimental solid state physics, radiology physics and single-cell genomics analysis. Currently, she studies the risks associated with decisions consumers make in their daily lives, for example, the temperature setting on their home water heater. Her goal is to understand the risk in order to help prevent infection, reduce energy costs and live cleaner lives.

Written by Dianne Price

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6 spring ASU English courses that peel back the layers on tech, language

October 9, 2019

This spring, the Department of English at Arizona State University wants you to plug in.

Or at least, it wants you to consider when, where, why and how you plug in. This humanities unit is offering a plethora of courses — spanning topics from artificial intelligence to Mark Zuckerberg — that focus on or take place in digital environments. Spring 2020 classes include critical studies of social media, augmented reality and wearables, zines, ghost stories, computer-assisted language learning, the archetypal matrix and more.

A few noteworthy choices are below, but there are even more options in the ASU class schedule (search by “ENG,” “FMS,” “LIN”  or “APL” prefixes), where you can find both online and in-person courses.

1. FMS 394 — Social Media Entertainment

Do you have what it takes to be a social media “influencer”? This digital occupation is driven by enigmatic personalities with sizable online followings: Think Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylie Jenner and Selena Gomez.

You’re probably not a soccer star, celebrity socialite or professional musician, but that’s not a problem in this ASU course. Assistant Professor Sarah Florini — who studies emerging media and racial politics, and whose forthcoming book on digital networks is titled “Beyond Hashtags” — aims to introduce students to the rigor involved in being a media phenomenon. She bets there will be a bit of a learning curve, even as she guides students in DIYing a platform. “Despite its ubiquity,” Florini said, “most people don’t understand the processes involved in creating and maintaining influencer status.”

Students in Florini’s course will try their hand at becoming influencers, creating, launching and maintaining their own influencer brand. They’ll even learn about monetization strategies. “It is not a ‘how-to’ class,” Florini cautioned. “Instead, it’s a deep and hands-on examination of the possibilities and barriers that come with this new media profession.”

If you register: FMS 394 Social Media Entertainment (class #30550) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Photo of Mark Skwarek's augmented reality art project "The Leak in Your Hometown." / Photo courtesy Jake Greene, with permission from the artist

2. ENG 494 — Writing in Digital Spaces

In describing his spring 2020 “Writing in Digital Spaces” course, ASU Assistant Professor Jacob Greene referred to the plot of the popular dystopian Netflix series “Black Mirror,” in which a social crediting platform infiltrates nearly every aspect of life.

“Hold a door open for a stranger? Plus two points,” said Greene. “Spill coffee on an important person? Minus five points.”

Greene said he plans his spring course to engage a similar kind of speculative thought experiment “by considering how digital technologies are transforming how we talk, think, write and act in a variety of contexts, from workplaces to classrooms to social interactions.”

A digital technology researcher, Greene himself is a regular user and developer of mobile augmented reality applications; he is hoping to bring students along for the virtual ride. Participants in Greene’s course will analyze augmented/virtual reality, social networking sites, video/sound/image sharing platforms and wearable technologies to develop a more nuanced understanding of the merits and downfalls of emerging technologies. 

If you register: ENG 494 Writing in Digital Spaces (class #31569) meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:55 to 1:45 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Zines in the Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection. / Image by Flaxman Library on Flickr, used under CC2.0.

3. ENG 345 – Making Zines for Social and Environmental Issues

Think old-school tech. Decidedly un-digital, handmade “zines” are the focus of this literature course team-taught by English professors Jeffrey Cohen and Ron Broglio. The zine has a long history of helping promote alternative views and foment revolutionary thinking. After a short lag in public interest during the 1990s — because internet! — the zine is again having its day.

“Making Zines for Social and Environmental Issues” educates students about maker culture by, well, making. Using various modes of writing, art and bookmaking, students will design and hand-produce books, manifestos and pamphlets that “imagine a more just and ecological future,” said Broglio.

“The class connects to current zine culture in Phoenix as well as to our life in the Sonoran Desert and is part of a long history of underground writing for creating better worlds. No previous skills needed. This is an entry-level DIY class, and everyone is welcome,” Broglio said.

Cohen and Broglio bring an ecological consciousness to this hands-on literature study. Both are environmental humanities scholars with feet in administrative realms; Cohen is dean of humanities in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Broglio directs the Desert Humanities Initiative in the Institute for Humanities Research. The pair intend the course to enhance students’ critical thinking and communication skills, including the ever-useful persuasive argument.

“This is a good way for students to think about issues and audience,” Broglio said. “What do you want to say to people? And how can you convey these ideas in an accessible and meaningful way that moves your audience?”

If you register: ENG 345 Making Zines for Social and Environmental Issues (class #30022) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Image of a gothic mansion in fog by Sebastián-Malz on Pixabay.

4. ENG 394 — Contemporary Literature for Writers: Ghosts in the Attic, Bodies in the Basement

You could say that this ASU Online course on spooky stories makes use of both the Ethernet and the ether. Instructor Jonathan Danielson, a fiction writer, coaches students on how elements of craft have real, not arbitrary, connections to the content they depict in “Contemporary Literature for Writers: Ghosts in the Attic, Bodies in the Basement.”

With a reading list that includes such unsettling titles as “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Shirley Jackson, “Springtime: A Ghost Story” by Michelle de Kretser, “Disquiet” by Julia Leigh and “Mrs. Caliban” by Rachel Ingalls, assignments will explore recent fiction that’s ghostly, gothic and grim. This is a creative writing class, but Danielson said the initial focus will be on creative reading.

“It’s not a class about ‘how-to-write,’ said Danielson, “but rather an exploration of how writing ‘has-been-done’ and ‘is-being-done.’” That said, students will have an opportunity to write, and Danielson stresses they will be asked to focus on aesthetics when building their narratives. “So far I've taught it every semester for the last three years,” said Danielson, “and each time students seem to have a great experience reading works they wouldn't normally choose, and writing exercises that push them out of their creative comfort zones.”

If you register: ENG 394 Contemporary Literature for Writers: Ghosts in the Attic, Bodies in the Basement (class #23639) is offered through ASU Online during Session B.

Human figure with technology image from needpix.com, illustration by Geralt on Pixabay.

5. ENG 404 — Second Language Acquisition: Technology and TESOL

For those considering a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant or similar in the future, this course on using tech to aid in teaching English as a second or other language may give a leg up.

Taught by Associate Professor Bryan Smith, a language researcher who oversees ASU’s graduate certificate in Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and edits the international CALICO Journal, the class traces the development of CALL over the last three decades, focusing on research that explores how technology can help facilitate second language development. Students will use empirical data to inform their coursework, but Smith promises that class sessions won’t be dry.

“We’ll explore topics such as teaching culture and skill areas with technology, as well as computer-mediated communication, virtual exchanges, gaming, fan fiction and more,” he said.

“Second Language Acquisition: Technology and TESOL” is useful for pre- or in-service ESL/EFL teachers, foreign language teachers, administrators and anyone aiming to boost their educational credentials.

If you register: ENG 404 Second Language Acquisition: Technology and TESOL (class #19978) meets Tuesdays from 4:50 to 7:35 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Girl reading J.K. Rowling novel / Photo by Lozikiki on Flickr

6. ENG 470 — Symbols & Archetypes in Children’s Literature

Harry Potter fans will find fellowship in this online course instructed by Faculty Associate Joyce Jamerson, a national literacy leadership specialist who teaches for ASU’s English education program. “Symbols & Archetypes in Children’s Literature” offers an introduction to character archetypes and stages of the “hero’s journey” — the very journey of everyone’s favorite boy wizard — through analysis of children’s texts. 

“Simply defined, archetypes are patterns,” explained Jamerson. “There are different types of archetypes that can be identified in literature including character archetypes, situational archetypes and symbolic archetypes. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung suggests that archetypes are constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures.”

Students in Jamerson’s class will have the opportunity to read and analyze a plethora of beloved children’s books, including those by J.K. Rowling, but also by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Rita Williams-Garcia, Christopher Paul Curtis, Patricia Polacco and James Dashner. Jamerson described the course as “addictive” in that once students begin to see literature and film through the lens of the “archetypal matrix,” they can’t un-see it.

“If you have decided to throw caution to the wind and enter the archetypal matrix,” she said with a wink, “I look forward to meeting you on the other side!”

If you register: ENG 470 Symbols & Archetypes in Children’s Literature is offered online in sessions A and B, as both an iCourse (classes #19768 and #19770) for Tempe campus students and an oCourse (classes #19767 and #19769) for ASU Online students.

This list is just a sampler of what’s offered in the Department of English, an academic unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, during spring 2020. Taught by award-winning faculty from myriad specialties in creative writing, English education, film and media studies, linguistics and applied linguistics, literature, and writing, rhetorics and literacies, the courses cross disciplinary boundaries and are designed to reach students where they are.

Image information (from top): Social media influencer (Gerd Altmann on Pixabay under CC 2.0); photo of Mark Skwarek's augmented reality art project "The Leak in Your Hometown" (courtesy of Jacob Greene, used with artist's permission); closeup of zines in Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection (Flaxman Library on Flickr under CC 2.0); gothic mansion with fog (Sebastián Malz on Pixabay under CC 2.0); human with technology (Needpix.com); and girl reading J.K. Rowling book (Lozikiki on Flickr under CC 2.0).

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Visions of many futures

October 4, 2019

New science fiction anthology, 'Future Tense Fiction,' features marquee writers

The best science fiction thinks — and looks — slightly beyond the horizon of the possible. Think of Ray Bradbury’s Martian colonists slowly losing their minds and humanity. Or Frank Herbert’s warring houses, corporations, planets and religions 10,000 years in the future, in a macrocosm of our world.

This month, a new science fiction anthology takes the cutting edge science of now — tech like robotics, gene editing and space colonization — around the corner to surprising places.

In "Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow," a disease surveillance robot’s social programming gets put to the test. In a future in which everyone receives universal basic income, it’s still not enough. And in a futuristic sport, all the athletes have been chemically and physically enhanced.

Future Tense is a partnership of Arizona State University, the online magazine Slate and the think tank New America that explores emerging technologies, public policy and society. Beginning in 2016, Future Tense commissioned a series of stories from leading writers that imagined what life might be like in a variety of possible futures. The book is a selection of those pieces.

The book’s 14 stories explore a wide range of ideas about social structures and technologies, viewed through themes of memory, sports, home, work, artificial intelligence and data.

The authors “often look for signals of things that are emerging,” said Joey Eschrich, one of the book’s editors and program manager for ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

“Because we encourage the authors to think about how we’re going to live in the future and think of these as useful fictions in some way, I think in a lot of cases they’re thinking about that ethical and social landscape and saying, ‘These are things we should probably be talking about now,’” Eschrich said. “These are things that if we’re not armed with some information and some mental practice around the technology, it’s much easier for it to get out of control quickly.”

He pointed to author Maureen McHugh’s sports-themed story centered around human enhancement.

“You can already see these kinds of questions about what makes us human bubbling up in real life, and what’s fair and what are the boundaries of what’s sporting,” he said. “Those are going to start to matter in everyday life, too.”

Initially McHugh was not thrilled with the straw she drew.

“They said, ‘Oh, by the way, the theme for this summer is sports,’” McHugh said. “And I thought, ‘I’m a science fiction writer. Science fiction writers are nerds. We do not play sports!’”

She chose gymnastics, an Olympic sport. She had been listening to science blogs about the gene editing tool CRISPR. She also recalled a story about a young Chinese gymnast who was practicing the day before a meet. She missed her vault and broke her neck.

“The two just kinda came together,” McHugh said. She watched hours of young gymnasts on YouTube to the point where, “If I had a daughter who was really good at gymnastics I’d break her ankle.”

In McHugh’s story, a young gymnast who became paralyzed has her body repaired using starfish DNA. When she reenters competition, the question arises: Is she still human or not?

McHugh doesn’t foresee a future where there are different types of humans in sports, in the same way there are different cars in autosports.

“I actually don’t,” she said. “I think we might start in that direction, but what I think will happen is gene editing will become much more mainstream. Right now, the Olympic committee is in a quandry about intersex and trans people since sports has always been gender divided. It’s built on a model that’s outdated.”

Torie Bosch, an editor in residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, worked with Eschrich and others on the book.

“We were so, so fortunate to have this caliber of writer willing to work with us,” she said of McHugh and the other writers who responded.

“The two stories that are similar in topic and not in theme that stand out to me in a way that’s interesting are ‘Mika Model’ by Paolo Bacigalupi and Annalee Newitz’s ‘When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis,’” Bosch said. “I love those two stories and thinking about them together because they show such incredibly different depictions of social robotics, of how humans and robots might interact and the challenges we might come up against. One is sort of a noirish detective story about this robotic femme fatale and one is an epidemic story about a really adorable cute robot. They show the breadth of the futures we’re imagining here.”

Each story is paired with original art and a response essay online, which is penned by an expert in that field. 

“Just as we have this really illustrious list of fiction authors in the book, we also have a really illustrious list of experts in fields who have responded to these stories and who have helped contextualize them — to help people think about how these stories might help them think about debates we face today,” Bosch said.

The book showcases a wide range of styles. Some are more contemplative. Some are more action-oriented. Some feel literary, but with a scientific or technologic core.

“Science fiction is a deliberative intervention and a tool for thinking critically, as well as being an entertaining story,” Eschrich said. “We want the stories to be good and to have literary merit, but we also want them to work on people’s minds in a certain way.”

A launch event with a panel discussion will be held at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix on Oct. 10.

Top: Illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Courtesy of Future Tense

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now